Pacific and Indian Oceans; or the South Sea Surveying and Exploring Expedition.

This volume includes a couple of Reynold’s works commenting on the preparation for the ExEx, from which he was eventually excluded. The volume includes reprints of two works previously published by the author: Address on the subject of a surveying and exploring expedition to the Pacific Ocean and South seas — New York, 1836, and, Exploring expedition. Correspondance between J. N. Reynolds and the Hon. Mahlon Dickerson, under the respective signatures of “Citizen” and “Friend to the navy”, touching the South sea surveying and exploring expedition — [New York, 1838?] He never went to the Antarctic but his comments in preparation have peculiar interest.

p. 16-17, in deploring American innovation: What other nations have accomplished is everywhere to be seen: in books, maps, charts, and in the collections of our commercial libraries. Even Spain, while guided by her exclusive interests, and burdened with destructive monopolies, while her power was respected in the east and extending in the west, made many contributions to geographical knowledge in the construction of numerous charts, characterized by great accuracy. [Reynolds goes on to provide a brief history of the beginnings of geographical knowledge in general and polar discoveries in particular (p. 17-24), to illustrate how little the US had done.]

p. 29, in May 183?, Congress resolved approval of a small expedition of one ship, the Peacock to be repaired: …suitable seamen were enlisted, and orders given to prepare the requisite books and mathematical instruments; and correspondence had been held with some of our most distinguished scientific men throughout the land, in order to facilitate the selection of persons to be attached to the expedition, and to aid in drawing up instructions. In a word, everything had been done with a prudent foresight could suggest, to render the expedition efficient for the protection of our commerce, and honourable to our common country.

p. 258: We are dependent on other nations for all of our nautical instruments, as well as charts; and, if we except Bowditch’s Navigator, an improvement of Hamilton Moore’sbook of the same kind, we have not a nautical table or book in our navy, or among our merchantmen, the product of our own product or skill….

p. 336ff, “Letters of a Citizen,” VI “To the Honourable Mahlon Dickerson, Secretary of the Navy is an extended and witty attack on the selection of both scientists and scientific books for the expedition:

p. 337: If the great design of the expedition be to go as near as practicable to the South Pole, for what purpose do you send a botanist to that region where no vegetation exists? Why do you incur the expense of sending a philologist to attend to the interesting department of language where there are no inhabitants? What object is proposed by sending an entomologist in those high latitudes, when a single bug may not be found within the Antarctic circle? And wherefore should you dispatch a portrait-painter to the Polar Seas, unless, indeed, you wish him to exercise his art in sketching the likenesses of seals and sea-elephants? Thus, we perceive, that the two main obj ects of the expedition, as set forth by you, are absurdly in contradiction to each other.

p. 338, on Dickerson’s claims of extraordinary efforts “to prevent delays”: Let us see. Three months, wanting two days, after the bill had passed, you sent an agent to Europe, as you inform us in your communication to Congress of the 6th February, for the purpose of preventing “any delay that might arise from the want of mathematical, astronomical, and philosophical instruments, books, maps, charts,” &c. I can hardly forbear a smile when I read your remark about preventing delay! Why were not the “fourteen gentlemen eminent for their scientific attainments” consulted before the agent departed? Or, if they were at that time unselected, it only shows that you had suffered three months to elapse without having attended to “the most important objects of the expedition!

p. 341: I am not a little puzzled with this heterogeneous mélange of scientific works which have been brought hither. So few as respects the few which relate to natural history, the recent French voyages excepted, I scarcely know how an equal number of more useless volumes could have been selected. I should be glad to see you or your agent point more than ten works, throwing aside the voyages, that any competent naturalist would have ordered. I can only name seven: Richardson’s Fauna, Bennister’s Entomology, Cuvier’s Fishes, London’s Encyclopedia of Plants, Genera of Recent and Fossil Shells, Yarrel’s British Fishes, and Turner’s Foci. Magazines of Natural History, like the Geological and Linnæan Transactions, are not needed; though containing many important papers, the proper place for such ponderous tomes is the shelves of a library. The naturalists will require working books, manuals, and models; and these, sir, have not been provided.

The list of voyages, I am happy to find, is far more complete, although three which may be termed scientific par excellence are not included in it: viz., Pallas, Saussure, and the complete works of Humboldt. In a word, the catalogue is in itself sufficient evidence that no naturalist had any share in its adoption. Indeed, I am only in doubt whether the assortment was made by an agent, or whether he merely gave a carte blanche to a bookseller, and requested him to furnish as many cubic feet of works on natural history as he thought might be necessary for “any scientific expedition.”

p. 342: On the fourth of this month you put the corps on duty, and gave them the means to prepare for the voyage. They are now, as I learn, actively employed; and by ransacking public and private libraries, may, it is hoped, remedy the evils occasioned by your imperfect and tardy arrangements. Thus you find, sir, that after an interval of fifteen months, and subsequent to your official announcement that all the tools of the natualists were provided, books are still to be imported, and orders now to be given for the construction of instruments!!! If this be good faith in the discharge of a high trust committed to your hands, then I should be glad to know what may be deemed a dereliction of duty.

p. 345: If, in the exposition I have given of some of your official acts, there was been some occasional appearance of severity, you know full well that they were, in comparison, but as the dewdrops of mercy to what I might have said had I gone into an examination of your doings throughout the entire history of the naval equipment of the squadron, as well as in reference to other points passed by without remark or illusion. For the opinions advanced and facts stated I am alone and singly responsible; and if they be controverted, I hold myself at all times prepared to give my reasons for the former and my proofs of the latter.
I have the honour to be
Your obedient servant and fellow
New-York, July 28, 1837.

p. 426-27: It is to zoology chiefly that anatomy is now looking for light; and many animals, hitherto only known through the medium of books, may be submitted to the anatomist during the contemplated voyage.

P, 428: You stated, in a report to Congress in February last, that “all the books, instruments, and charts necessary for any scientific expedition had been procured;” though, in your present report, you are obliged to own that “it was necessary” (after the date of that assertion) “to procure a great variety of articles for the gentlemen of the scientific corps.”… What mockery, I had almost said, what trifling with the intelligence of the country, is this flimsy justification of your tardiness of action! If you had put this fund into the hands of Commodore Jones in October, 1836, instead of October, 1837, and in other respects performed your duty, you might have been indulged in speaking of your “unusual course” to prevent “delay in the sailing of the expedition.”

p. 430, re accommodations for the scientific corps aboard the Macedonian: each having ample space for convenience and comfort. There they have space for their library, which comprises at least one thousand volumes, rare and valuable works on the whole range of the sciences in octavoes, quartos, and folios…. [Much of this is a diatribe to and against the Secretary of the Navy, imploring adequate space for the scientific corps to do its work and to collaborate among themselves, including ample space for their library. Reynolds was also arguing to reduce the naval/military requirements aboard the ships of the ExEx]

p. 479-81, Letters of a Citizen XVIII “To the Honourable Joel R. Poinsett, Secretary of War, is a withering satiric attack on the selection of Wilkes to command the expedition, with recommended readings so that: you may be spared the ridicule which your extensive want of scientific knowledge, as displayed in relation to the Exploring Expedition, has drawn down upon you.

p. 488-99 has a satirical imaginative portrait of the principal figures in preliminary planning of the ExEx and conversations among Dickerson, Poinsett, and Wilkes.